Domestic Violence and Vandalism: NOT GUILTY
The client was from Brazil, and she was attending SDSU on a student visa. She had begun dating her boyfriend six months prior to the incident. After a night of drinking, there was an altercation in the apartment the two shared. The police arrived on the scene and immediately took the side of the boyfriend. He had a scratch on his neck, and the security guards already on the scene informed the police that the client was very angry and screaming at the boyfriend. The police determined that they only needed to get one side of the story before arresting the client. The lead officer spent 10 minutes talking to the boyfriend, and he did not interview the client or an eyewitness.
The Client and her boyfriend had been drinking at their apartment when an argument broke out over the boyfriend smoking a cigarette. The client decided she wanted to leave and began grabbing her belongings. In the process of leaving, she threw her computer to the ground and broke the screen. The boyfriend had learned that the client sent a text message to her ex-boyfriend during the argument. The boyfriend grabbed the client’s phone and facetimed her ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend then witnessed via facetime the client being held on the ground struggling to get free. During the struggle, a large mirror fell and broke. After the client broke free, she requested that the security call 911 because her boyfriend refused to let her leave with her belongings. The ex-boyfriend was so alarmed with what he saw he decided to drive to the apartment complex.
When the police arrived, the ex-boyfriend was already on the scene. The police decided to make the arrest before they ever spoke to the ex-boyfriend. The police never asked about whether the 27-year-old boyfriend had ever been abusive on prior occasions, nor did they check the client for injuries or do any real investigation into what exactly took place. Once the boyfriend learned that the client would be arrested, he immediately tried to stop the arrest, but his requests were ignored.
The client was charged in San Diego Superior Court and was given a plea offer of 90 days in jail, a year-long domestic violence class, probation. Any conviction would have meant immediate deportation back to Brazil. Mr. Griffin immediately began investigating the case. This is where he learned of the prior domestic violence committed by the People’s “victim.” Despite the available evidence, the prosecutor refused to dismiss the case.
The prosecutor tried every trick in the book to postpone the trial, so he could better prepare for the case. After a lengthy legal battle, four different judges sided with Mr. Griffin and forced the prosecutor to start the trial. Mr. Griffin filed several pretrial motions (“motions in limine”). The first victory came when the trial judge granted Mr. Griffin’s motion to exclude the alleged victim’s statements to police. This motion was based on the case Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), which held that the Sixth Amendment mandates that a defendant have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. This effectively gutted the prosecution’s case. The prosecutor had intended to use body-worn camera footage of the boyfriend/alleged victim to explain what they thought took place.
The second victory came when the trial judge excluded the defendant’s statements. Mr. Griffin filed a motion to exclude these statements based on the holding in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Mr. Griffin convinced the judge that the statements made to police by the defendant were in a custodial setting and qualified as an “interrogation.” This dealt another blow to the prosecutor because he was not allowed to use the defendant’s statements as evidence.
Mr. Griffin was able to successfully cross-examine all of the police officers to point out the omissions in their investigation. This included getting the officers to admit that they walked by the only eyewitnesses five times and failed to get his statement. The officers also failed to learn about the prior instances where the alleged victim had abused the client. The entire trial lasted seven days, and after all the evidence and closing arguments had been presented, the jury returned NOT GUILTY verdicts to all three charges. The jury only needed to deliberate for fifteen minutes before it came back with the full acquittal.